Niagara Leadership Summit for Women 2020 is here!

This year, we are Rising Together as women leaders in Niagara. Apply to be a speaker or workshop host for NLSW 2020. You can download the application here (Fillable PDF) or here (Word Doc). Note: To use the Fillable PDF, please download the document to your computer before inputting your data in order for your data to be saved.

Applications close on August 7th at 5pm.


We’re working to find the best presenters for 2020! In the meantime, we want to thank everyone who presented at last year’s event! Look below to see the amazing women that inspired women across our region with their leadership!

Introducing our 2019 Keynote Speaker
Rochelle Ivri

Rochelle Ivri is a Canadian Citizenship Judge appointed in 2018  by the Governor General on the recommendation of the Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada. She is also a professor in the paralegal program with the McKeil School of Business at Mohawk College where she teaches Administrative Law, Tribunal Practice and Procedure, Landlord and Tenant Law, and Alternative Dispute Resolution. Rochelle co-authored a textbook, Tribunal Practice and Procedure for Legal Professionals published by Emond Publishing in 2018. She is a paralegal and immigration consultant registered with the Law Society of Ontario and the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC). Rochelle has served two terms on the Niagara-on-the-Lake Public Library Board, is a former member of the Discipline, Appeal, and Review Committee of the ICCRC, and spent 8 years as a publicly appointed member of the Council of the College of Midwives of Ontario. She currently sits on the Board of Directors for Bravo Niagara!. Before teaching, Rochelle worked at the Federal Courts, the Immigration and Refugee Board, and coordinated a restorative justice diversion program for the Ministry of the Attorney General. Rochelle received an undergraduate degree in criminology (minor in forensic anthropology) from the University of Windsor and a postgraduate certificate in alternative dispute resolution from York University. Rochelle is a wife and mother of 4, who enjoys spending time with her family, cooking, and reading. Rochelle is also passionate about the Charter and human rights.

Rochelle Ivri, Citizenship Judge

Speakers & Presenters

Rashmi Biswas

Rashmi Biswas

Executive Vice President Lake and Associates Canada specializing in leadership development, team effectiveness, and process facilitation. Clients include both private and public sector organizations, and I have provided services in North America, South America, Asia and the Middle East. My work focuses upon bridging the gap between theory and practice through the design and delivery of sustainable workplace learning solutions. In addition, I am an
instructor for the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), at the University of Toronto, and at the Goodman School of Business, Brock University.

Read about Rashmi’s seminar “Power and Money (Gender Equity)” here


Andrea Blais

My name is Andrea Blais. I am 22 years old and I work as the Lab Manager for the Zelisko Research Team at Brock University. I graduated from Loyalist College with my Biotechnology Technician and Technologist diplomas. Through my extensive knowledge of instrumentation and lab skills I now manage the instrumentation and day-to-day lab operations for the Zelisko Research Team. I have always known that I wanted to be a scientist, and I love that every day I have the opportunity to learn something new and that the work that I’m doing will make a difference in the world.

Read about Andrea’s seminar “Little Woman, Big Lab” here

Dr. Robyn

Dr. Robyn Bourgeois

Tan’si! My English name is Dr. Robyn Bourgeois and my Indigneous name is Laughing Otter Caring Woman. I am a mixed-race Cree woman born and raised in Syilx and Splats’in territories of BC, and connected through marriage and my children to Six Nations. I am employed as an assistant professor in the Centre for Women’s and Gender studies at Brock University. I’m a survivor of sex trafficking and have spent the last twenty years involved in activism surrounding violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada. I’m also an author, artist, and mother to three children aged 1, 5, 7. I do what I do because I got a second chance at life and, thus, feel a responsibility to make this world a better place.

Read about Dr. Robyn’s seminar “From Trauma to Triumph” here


Lesley Calvin

Lesley Calvin is a Certified Emotional Intelligence, Leadership Development, and Organizational Culture Consultant, Coach and Trainer, known for her warm, dynamic, and impactful approach to her coaching, facilitation and speaking engagements. Working with individuals and organizations looking to increase their leadership capacity is her niche. Building emotionally-intelligent, high performing skilled professionals, leaders, and organizations is her mission. Fostering awareness of self and others, optimizing individual and collective Emotional Intelligence, and increasing mindfulness, energy, and stress tolerance in an increasingly busy world, is her deliverable.

Read about Lesley’s workshop “Your Energy, Your Choice” here


Loretta Davis

I’m Loretta Davis, 38, and I have spina bifida and I live in Thorold. I’m a graduate of the Educational Assistant Special Needs Support program from Niagara College. I play wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball. I am Captain of Brock Niagara Penguins Wheelchair Basketball Team. I’m the coach of Brock Niagara Penguins Boccia program for 6 years. I was coach of the year for 2017 through Parasport Ontario. I’m Penguins Parasport camp counselor. I love working with kids because I like to see them achieve new things and I try to inspire them to be their best selves. Through my work with the Penguins, I try to show the kids that having a disability doesn’t mean that you can’t do what everyone else can – you just need to find a different way to do it.

Read about Loretta’s seminar “Adversity Through Sport” here


Siobhan Deary

I am a young entrepreneur growing a financial services business in Niagara. Being born, raised, and educated in St Catharines, I provide the community – families, businesses, and their owners – with financial planning services. These services are aimed at providing financial literacy; being heavily focused on knowledge and education I support my clients on all financial matters. After struggling to put myself through university at Brock, I had the desire to work with a financial advisor post-graduation to help me organize my financial situation. Instead of seeking out someone to help me, I went back to school and wrote my licensing exams. Now as a financial advisor myself, my aim is to be the person I was initially looking for. As one of few women in this field, I aim to work with other women in the community to strengthen our financial understanding and take charge of our money.

Read about Siobhan’s workshop “Financial Freedom” here


Diana DiPaolo McDonnell

My name is Diana DiPaolo McDonnell. I was a science high school teacher. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Health Science, and a Masters in Education. I started my health and wellness business 5 years ago since I wasn’t always able to teach what I wanted at my high school, and since I wasn’t paid over the Summer. Now I do my business full time, empowering people and workplaces to live a healthier and happier life.

Read about Diana’s yoga session here

Renée Guay

As a speaker for human rights, I offer attendees an opportunity to learn the challenges of both male and female constructs. For the past decade, I have worked within male-dominated industries, overseeing Environmental, Health and Safety, and often the only women onsite or in the boardroom, it has been extremely challenging with the amount of sexual harassment and bullying. After being sexually assaulted, my world changed and I quickly began to realize how many gaps and misunderstandings there are within our employment, regulatory systems, and culture.  I am passionate about communicating with others how to become bully-proof and provide knowledge and resources for moving forward.

Read about Renée’s workshop “Represent Yourself” here


Cheryl W. Hayes

I have been a critical care Nurse for 35 years. Leadership has long been my passion. I became a Charge Nurse 4 years ago in an all female unit. One fraught with hostility and bullying. From staff nurse to charge nurse I have been baby stepping toward a culture change ever since. It is multi-faceted and requires much more growth than I ever anticipated for my colleagues and myself. I want to share the struggles and successes of one person trying to rise to a level of leadership and produce the ultimate change.

Read about Cheryl’s seminar “The Silent Rules of Engagement” here


Kailene Jackson

Kailene Jackson is in her final year of her BA (Hons.) in Political Science and Sociology at Brock. She is an ambitious student leader and an active member of the Brock and Niagara communities who is passionate about gender equality and social justice. She is the Secretary-General of Brock Model United Nations and, in this role, teaches students to be global citizens and address international issues. Kailene also delivers workshops on the SDGs in Niagara. Additionally, she is the CAO of First Vote, a non-profit that educates youth about politics and empowers them to vote. Kailene is also a staff at Brock Student Life and works to get students involved at Brock and in Niagara.

Kailene is co-founder of @GrlPwrReads on Instagram; with the objective of sharing feminist, intersectional, and empowering books, poems and literature.

Read about Kailene’s and Hope’s workshop “Speak Up! Advancing Social Issues” here


Liz Jansen

Niagara native Liz Jansen combines her artistic mediums to create stories and experiences that inspire people to embark on their own journey of self-discovery. Her work helps others change their life by changing the stories they carry about who they are and what they can do. Liz’s practice draws from her background in nursing, human resources, shamanic energy medicine, and hundreds of thousands of miles of mostly solo motorcycle travel across North America. She’s the author of Crash Landing, Women, Motorcycles and the Road to Empowerment, and Life Lessons from Motorcycles.

Read about Liz’s workshop “The Stories We Carry” here


Shannon Kerwin

I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Sport Management at Brock University. I also volunteer my time as a coach for my daughter’s U7 soccer team. I have engaged in both roles for the same reason; I love watching other people develop through their experiences, and I am energized by challenging myself to develop through learning from others. In my role at Brock, I lead others on Department and Faculty Committees, I am an Associate Editor of the top tier journal in my academic field, and I lead undergraduate and graduate students through their respective academic experiences.

Read about Shannon’s seminar “I Have To Earn Your Respect, Again?” here

Lori Littleton

I have identified myself as a City Councillor, but it’s really only one thing that I do, which is why I thought I would apply. I also run my own (small) financial services business, am a mother of three children, run a property business and am a freelance writer who is trying to publish her first novel. I have always been drawn to leadership positions and trying to help people, especially women, whether that be in my city as an elected representative or volunteer, or in my financial services business, where I particularly enjoy helping women understand financial literacy. I enjoy working hard, setting goals and helping others achieve their goals.

Lori will be a part of our inspiring panel in the morning!


Olivia Poulin

I am a recent graduate from Brock (BBA Marketing), I started my first company at age 17, and I’m a lover of all things personal development! I’m full of energy, the kind of person that loves stepping out into new adventures, and I love connecting with new people. I believe women are amaaaazing and I believe the rising tide of women representation and leadership will float all boats! I believe in being authentic, choosing joy, working hard, and having integrity. I’m currently an entrepreneur and marketer, working towards becoming a speaker and coach!

Read about Olivia’s workshop “Game of Life” here


Marnie Prokator

Passionate about ending stigma surrounding mental health, I spend my time dedicated to learning innovative ways to empower others to live their best life by creating positive change. I am a wife, mother of two adult children and Nana to two beautiful grandchildren. I make time for the things I enjoy the most, which include traveling, family time, meditation and working within my position as a health promoter with CASON (Community Addiction Services of Niagara). I am driven to educate, motivate and provide hope by way of fusion with traditional and lived experience.

Read about Marnie’s seminar “But I’m a Photographer, Right?” here


Claudia Rothman Gonzalez

Claudia is originally from southern Mexico; she immigrated to Canada in 2010 with her family. She graduated from Culinary Management at Niagara College in 2013 but after 6 years in the field, she decided something was missing.

She started volunteering at the Folk Arts Multicultural Centre as a receptionist, where she quickly discovered how much she wanted to help other Newcomers. She then had the opportunity to support the seniors program, utilizing her culinary skills and leading a cooking club, amongst other activities. She acquired the position of Community Connections Worker in Welland, which transitioned into Community Connections Worker in Niagara Falls and St. Catharines.

Claudia has found great joy in doing the work she does but especially getting to know people from diverse backgrounds and learning their stories.

When Claudia is not at the Folk Arts, she enjoys spending time in nature, cooking and dancing. She especially finds it fascinating and rewarding to experience other cultures and discover new places through traveling. Claudia is also very passionate about animal rights.

Read about Claudia’s and Kristen’s workshop “Packing Your Life Through The Lens of Newcomer Women” here

Christina Thomas

My name is Christina. I grew up in a low income family. At one point in my life during college I was homeless with a 2 year old – but I didn’t give up and I graduated. It was during those hard times that I got to see a lack of social groups/programs for lower income families, so I decided to create some. With a few other ladies we developed some drop-in life skills programs, food sustaining programs, clothing + repair, as well as community dinners. I then was diagnosed with cancer, which blessed with time to slow down and focus on the important things in life, like going back to school and becoming an advocate for change! This year I graduated and now I am Social Worker utilizing my education to better my Community by helping others.

Christina will be a part of our inspiring panel in the morning!


Hope Tuff-Berg

Hope Tuff-Berg is an ambitious leader, passionate about empowering youth, women, and minority populations to become active citizens. She is in her third year of studies at Brock University, where she serves as the President of the Brock Niagara Rotaract Club, a member of the Brock Leaders Citizenship Society, as a Senator, and several student-led groups. She is the founder and CEO of First Vote, a nonprofit organization that educates youth about government, empowers them to become active citizens, and get out and vote. She will be working as a Career Assistant at Brock University and continue working as a communications coordinator at Spark Niagara.

Hope is co-founder of @GrlPwrReads on Instagram; with the objective of sharing feminist, intersectional, and empowering books, poems and literature.

Read about Hope’s and Kailene’s workshop “Speak Up! Advancing Social Issues” here


Kristen Veenhuis

My name is Kristen and I am a youth worker at the Niagara Folk Arts Multicultural Centre. My passion is to help youth see their own potential and thrive in whatever contexts they find themselves in. I love to travel, learn new languages and cultures. Through working at the multicultural centre, I have enjoyed gaining new experiences. I am an avid believer that the more we open ourselves to learn about others, the more understanding we are to the story that every individual has to tell.

Read more about Kristen’s and Claudia’s workshop “Packing Your Life Through The Lens of Newcomer Women” here